Is this new brand of high school football moving too fast for Stanislaus District teams?
Whether it's the quick snap count on the line, or speed in the open field, even some of the region's best teams struggle.
Central Catholic worried about Placer's physical play and huge line prior to last week's showdown, but it was the way the Hillmen raced from the huddle to the snap that helped doom the Raiders' in their 48-30 loss.
Central had no answer for Placer's quick snaps, often getting caught with too few defenders on the strong side of the formation. If a defense does try to shift, Placer will snap the ball while the defense is still moving.
No one in the district runs an offense the way Placer does Oakdale has an exaggerated dash but doesn't snap the ball as quickly so it's difficult to prepare for the scheme. Teams can try to mimic the pace in practice, but that's no substitute for the real thing.
Here's a bet I'll take: By this time next year, at least two teams in the district will be charging to the line just like Placer. Of course, what they do once the ball is snapped depends more on the personnel than the pace.
Oakdale's dilemma wasn't what happened prior to the snap, but after the ball got to Oceanside quarterback Tofi Paopao: He was 8 of 9 for 141 yards and three TDs in just one half and Oceanside was leading 34-0.
Oakdale had no answer for the Pirates, who scored on a 67-yard spring on the second play of the game. Paopao got the ball with under a minute in the first half, and burned Oakdale with a 58-yard scoring toss.
Oceanside's speed was particularly telling on offense. Oakdale had just 111 yards in the first half. It looked like the last two section finals, when Del Oro was too quick for Oakdale and shut down its productive Wing-T.
The good news is Oakdale won't see Oceanside again, unless they play in the State Bowl. They won't see this sort of speed, either, unless they get to the NorCal championship game.
But Central could face a rematch with Placer in the playoffs, if the Hillmen are sent to Division 4 with many of the section's small schools. Placer is the bubble team between divisions 3 and 4. It's the prohibitive favorite in D4, and a contender along with Oakdale and Inderkum in D3.
Davis' Chris Cloward saw his team take the field for the first time last week and he wasn't pleased. He won't be patient, either.
"I'm tired of excuses ... it's the running back who left, kids who went to Gregori ... no more excuses," Cloward said. "We got in the red zone twice early in the game and stumbled all over ourselves. That has got to change."
There's not much time to do that.
Patterson is on the schedule this Friday and the Tigers are tearing up teams. That's trouble for a defense that allowed 52 points and a school-record seven TDs by Sierra back Anthony Cota.
"We saw our seniors play the last two weeks," said Cloward, referring to the scrimmage with Calaveras and the 52-6 loss to Sierra. "We had a long film session on Monday and no one liked what they saw up there. This team will get younger."
Cloward put his plan in motion by promoting a few sophomores to the varsity, noting that each will bring a physical style of play that Davis' defense was lacking.
"(The sophomores) are bangers, physical kids," said Cloward, whose club went 3-7 in 2011. "Blocking, tackling, the fundamentals ... that will win us games."
Is Merced's Eli Gutierrez the best quarterback in the district? He was the top player on the field in Friday's 45-41 upset of then-No. 5 Downey.
While University of Hawaii-commit Aaron Zwahlen had five TD passes, he also threw four picks. Gutierrez also tossed five TDs, three in the fourth quarter, but he had only one pick.
Stats aside, Gutierrez gets credit for fulfilling the first requirement for a QB: He led his team to the victory, the second in a row for the Bears.
It's the first time since 2008 that Merced is 2-0, and they get to face the Central Section's top QB in Edison of Fresno's Khari McGee he threw for 2,529 yards and 28 TDs, and ran for another 633 and nine TDs as a junior.
The assignment will demand Merced's defense to turn on a dime: It goes from a classic pocket thrower, with little threat of running, to an Isaiah Burse-like athlete who can take over a game.
This could be a crucial game for Merced's program, which missed the playoffs the last three years. A win at Edison The Fresno Bee's No. 1 team in the preseason would show the Bears are ready to resume their spot among the section's top teams.
I'll break down last week's games, look ahead to this week and offer my takes on several topics on our Stanislaus Football Weekly show, which will be posted on our Web site today at www.modbee.com/prepfootball.